Sports Genomics: Volleyball

Sep 25, 2019


By the time Gilberto Filho won the silver at the Beijing Olympics, he’s already carved out a special niche for him in the tapestry of the sport of volleyball. He would then follow up his actions with a gold at the South American Championship in 2009 (Bogota), and would culminate his illustrious career with a silver at the summer Olympics in London. What a phenomenal career, innit? Yes, we are aware of the well-known facts about the role of genetics in an athlete’s performance, and the obviousness of hereditary conditionality of sports, but what actually made him so great? What made an athlete like Giba achieve undaunted global reputation in a simple game like volleyball? Only a person with born talents will possess a certain set of genetic prerequisites to a particular activity and can reach such levels of excellence. On a technical note, DNA and sports can be broken into four sections; Genes for power and endurance, genes for tendons, ligaments, cartilage and bone, genes involved in recovery and genes involved in diet and nutrition. 

What Muscle and DNA Are Involved in Training? 

In every athlete keep alone volleyball, there is DNA and genetic material that is associated with the performance; ACTN3 and ACE. These genes impact the fibre that makes up muscles and are linked to strength and endurance. Various other attributes associated with athleticism are, muscle mass, body mass index, flexibility, aerobic capacity, coordination, personality and intellectual ability. One of the important targets of volleyball conditioning is to generate strength in muscle and improve the power. If you can understand, not all muscles are similar and athletes have different types of muscle fibres in them. Generally, skeletal muscles are reported as slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibres. A slow-twitch fibre contact very little and help in endurance activities like long-distance running. In the case of volleyball, this fibre positions liberos in keeping them physically active in the game throughout without tiring. On the other hand, fast-twitch fibre contacts very quickly and are useful for activities like sprinting which require a sudden burst of strength. In the case of volleyball, fibre favours a 5-1 formation the outside hitters and the middle blockers require sudden and powerful bursts of energy in manoeuvering the gravitational forces associated with the ball. Oh wait!! You would say they support setters and the opposite hitters? Let’s debate.


Type I, IIa and IIb Fibers: 

  • Type I fibres are commonly known for resistant weariness and have an increased energy for elevation.
  • Type II fibres are everything type I aren’t. These have increased anaerobic power and minimal aerobic power.
  • Type IIa fibres are intermediate fast-twitch fibres which utilize both the metabolism (aerobic and anaerobic) to generate energy.
  • Type IIb fibres utilize anaerobic metabolism to generate sudden powerful bursts of speed.

In general, IIb fibres are the first involved in contracting. Once exhausted and weary, type I will take over.


 Importance of Fiber Types in Volleyball: 

A case-control study conducted on Brazilian volleyball athletes revealed that the allele FCRL3-169C may increase the danger of causing tendinopathy. This allele with the wisdom of identifiable risk factors (age, and gender etc), can be targeted at personalizing the treatment of elite athletes in order to reduce the pathology of developing any risk. (Salles, José Inácio, et al, 2018).Yes!! The type of fibre an athlete has will surely affect the rate of performance, but, as a single entity, it is not a good predictor of efficient performance. The human body, when put to test, has the power to make certain changes to its muscle function. Scientific research in the most recent times has proved the possibility of fast-twitch muscle fibres to act like slow-twitch muscle fibres and vice versa.

Bottom line: Train well to perform well: 

One major thing genetic testing can do is to provide insights to help us perfectly plan our decisions and approach our training in a more structured and systematic manner. If you face hardships as a sprinter, it can be that your body is more favourable towards endurance activities like swimming and marathon running. Understanding our genetic material will enable us to approach rest and recovery, and avoid injuries. Even though our genes cannot tell everything about us, they can surely guide us in a systematic way as we pursue better health and improved athletic performance. More importantly, if you want something very badly and are determined to excel no matter what, you will be unstoppable. 


How Mapmygenome Can Help You:

At Mapmygenome, our focus is mainly on predictive risk assessment, maintaining a proper diet, adapting to a healthier lifestyle. We focus on preventive healthcare and wellness. With screening tests like MyFitGene, you can personalize your training and diet while understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your body. If you know the right road to choose, you are halfway to the finish line! Know the best way to get fit for life, read your DNA story to know yourself completely.

We offer personalized health solutions based on genetic tests that help people to get to know about themselves. By combining genetic health profile and health history with genetic counselling, we provide actionable steps for individuals and their physicians towards a healthier life. To learn more about our tests, write to or call us at 1800 102 4595. 


  1. Ablikovа, Alisa, and Leonid Serhiyenko. “Sports selection of volley-ball players: genetic criteria to define motor endowments (information 2).” Slobozhanskyi herald of science and sport52.2 (52) (2016): 5-10.
  2. Guest, Nanci S et al. “Sport Nutrigenomics: Personalized Nutrition for Athletic Performance.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 6 8. 19 Feb. 2019, doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00008
  3. Herrick, Nicole et al., “Utility of Genetic Testing in Elite Volleyball Players with Aortic Root Dilation.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise vol. 49,7 (2017): 1293-1296. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001236
  4. Salles, José Inácio, et al. “Fc receptor-like 3 (− 169T> C) polymorphism increases the risk of tendinopathy in volleyball athletes: a case control study.” BMC medical genetics 19.1 (2018): 119.
  5. Sors F, Lath F, Bader A, Santoro I, Galmonte A, Agostini T, et al. (2018) Predicting the length of volleyball serves: The role of early auditory and visual information. PLoS ONE 13(12): e0208174.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not exhaustive by any means. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, procedure, or treatment, whether it is a prescription medication, over-the-counter drug, vitamin, supplement, or herbal alternative.